Baruch, Book of

views updated


A deuterocanonical book of the OT whose title (Bar1.12) attributes it to baruch, the erstwhile secretary of Jeremiah (Jer 36.4), writing in Babylon during the Exile.

Authorship, Unity, and Contents. It seems established, on the basis of a number of indications, that Baruch was not the author of this book: (1) in spite of the authority that the name of Baruch would have given to it, the book was never taken into the Hebrew Canon (see canon, biblical) or even preserved in Hebrew, if it ever existed in the language; (2) there are good grounds for believing that parts of it were composed in Hebrew, but other parts were probably composed in Greek (see below); (3) the book is not a unified prophetic composition, but a combination of different literary forms; (4) finally, many of the historical inaccuracies would be incomprehensible if they came from an author contemporary with the events, as Baruch was. For example, the introduction (1.114) supposes that the Temple was still standing and the liturgy was performed in it, while, in fact, the Temple was in ruins; the incorrect supposition that belsassar (bel-shar-usur) was the son of Nabuchodonosor is found (Bar 1.1112), perhaps under the influence of Dn 5.2; and Jechonia is placed in the crowd of Jewish exiles (Bar 1.3), although at this time he was really in prison.

The book is, in fact, an artful combination of pieces of diverse origin. The first section (1.114) is an edifying unhistorical narrative intended to introduce the book as reading for the Feast of booths; then follows a penitential prayer placed in the mouths of the exiles (1.153.8), similar to the liturgy found in Neh 9.538 and based in part (1.152.19) on Dn 9.419; the third section (Bar3.94.4), sapiential in character, is a Wisdom hymn; and the fourth section (4.55.9) is an anthology of poems in which Jerusalem speaks to her children (4.529), and her children speak to her (4.305.9). Note that 5.59 depends on Psalm of Solomon 11.27. see bible, iii (canon). For details on ch. 6, appended to Baruch in the Vulgate but separate in the Septuagint, see jeremiah, letter of.

Language and Time of Composition. While conservative opinion still retained Baruch as the author, it had to insist that the book was written in Hebrew and that its original was lost. Modern opinion (e.g., B. N. Wambacq), however, holds that the different parts of the book were written in different languages. It is suggested that1.114 was written in Greek; 1.153.8, in Hebrew;3.94.4, possibly in Hebrew but more likely in Greek; and 4.55.9, very probably in Greek.

It is most likely that the different parts of the book were written at different times. The following is the reconstruction suggested by Wambacq: 1.153.8 was written between 165 b.c. (about the time of the composition of Daniel) and a.d. 70, since it supposes that the Temple is still standing; 3.94.4 mirrors the doctrine of Sirach and presumably was written about the same time (160130 b.c.); 4.55.9 depends on Psalm of Solomon 11 and therefore could not be earlier than 63 b.c. The final combination of these parts would have been c. 60 b.c., with 1.314 added at a later date. Extreme opinions hold that the book was written in Roman times and that Nabuchodonosor and Belsassar really stand for Vespasian and Titus. At the other extreme, A. Penna proposes that1.13.8 was written by Baruch, but that 3.94.4 and4.55.9 were written in the Persian and exilic era respectively. A. Gelin is of the opinion that 1.114 is from the Maccabean period and that the rest is contemporary with Sir 24.131; 36.117.

Doctrinal Character. The book's central theme is collective sin and resulting suffering. There is no mention of a resurrection, but only of Sheol and no individual judgment is mentioned. Wisdom is identified with the Law or Torah (Bar 4.14; cf. Sir 24.23), which is the source of joy and happiness. God is referred to as eternal (Bar 4.14), as is the covenant (2.35) and the Law (4.1). The author's interest in eternity derives from Deutero-Isaiah (see isaiah, book of). The book reflects the mentality of the late Diaspora (see diaspora, jewish), as does Tobit. see tobit (tobias), book of. It speaks of adaptation to the host country (cf. the prayer for the kings in Bar1.1112), although there is an occasional outburst of hatred against the oppressor (4.25).

The book emphasizes fidelity to Yahweh through the service of the synagogue and, above all, through observance of the Law. It is not surprising that it is on the Feast of Booths, the day on which the Law was read and the covenant renewed, that the author wishes his book to be read in the Lord's Temple (1.14).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 210212, from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek. a. gelin, Jérémie, Les Lamentations, Le Livre de Baruch (Bible de Jérusalem, 23; Paris 1951). v. hamp,j. hÖfer and k. rahner, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, (Freiburg, 195766) 2:1819. a. penna, Geremia (Turin 1954). b. n. wambacq, "Les Prières de Baruch (1.152.19) et de Daniel (9.519)," Biblica 40 (1949) 463475; "L'Unité littéraire de Bar.1.13.8," Sacra Pagina 1 (1959) 455460.

[l. a. iranyi]